Suzanne Cotton recreates designs for HighBall

Fashion Design, Kevin Kerr's pink flower costume for HighBall Halloween, image of model in voluminous pink petal gown with pink wig Fashion Design, Recreation of voluminous pink petal gown displayed on mannequinn

A Kevin Kerr original (left) and Suzanne Cotton's re-creation.

Suzanne Cotton is a professor, a fashion designer, and, when the occasion calls for it, a detective of sorts.

Cotton, the chair of the Fashion Design Program at Columbus College of Art & Design, recently donned her detective hat for a project for HighBall, a huge Halloween costume party that unfolds on the streets of Columbus every year.

Cotton was asked to recreate three winning designs from past HighBall Runway Shows in celebration of the event’s 10th anniversary.

Two of the designs were originally designed by Kevin Kerr, but the Columbus fashion designer passed away in 2011, and his pieces could not be located. And a five-foot-tall balloon, part of a 15-foot-tall hot air balloon costume created by Annie Weirauch, now in California, for the 2013 HighBall was no longer usable.

But Cotton did some research and was able to recreate the designs.

We recently talked to Cotton, who will emcee the 10th Anniversary Costume Couture Runway Show on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. Read on to learn about her experience of recreating these striking designs and advice for those aspiring to make standout costumes of their own.

Fashion Design, Kevin Kerr's original design for HighBall Halloween, Kevin with model in form fitting black and blue dress with shoulder pads and blue train

Fashion Design, Recreation of form fitting black and blue dress with shoulder pads and blue train

A Kevin Kerr original (left) and Suzanne Cotton's re-creation.

What kind of reference materials did you have to work with when recreating these pieces?

I had one picture to go by, and only of the front of the costumes, so I had to use my best judgment!

What was the most satisfying element to this project?

I found it really enjoyable to figure out how to make them look the same — it was a little detective work and trial and error. One of my favorite parts of working with students is helping them figure out how to make their garments, and this was very similar. It was also fun to go out and look for the supplies. I bought a lot of items online, but I also hit up thrift stores and local fabric and craft stores. I even found a few things in Staples and Toys “R” Us!

What was the most challenging element to this project?

Finding a way to paint the pink dress by Kevin Karr. I tried a few techniques but wasn't really happy with it. I finally hand painted each piece. The quick turnaround also was a challenge. Since I had to order many items online, I had about two weeks from start to finish to make the pieces.

You’ve judged the couture show for many years. Do you have a favorite HighBall design?

Last year's winner, Shiree Houf (Adjunct Instructor, Fashion Design), was a favorite. It was a take on Starry Night by Van Gogh, and it was just beautiful in the design and execution.

Any advice for people who might be competing in HighBall?

Think big. Things really have to be over the top to translate on the stage. Get back from your designs and make sure they are really eye-popping from 20 feet away.

What about for people who are making their own costumes, in general?

Don't just look for materials in typical fabric and craft stores. Sometimes the perfect thing can be found online or in another type of store like office supply for a much better price. I purchased many items on eBay; I was able to get the 60 yards of tulle I needed at a great price.

Fashion Design, Annie Weirauch's hot air balloon costume for HighBall Halloween, Model on runway dressed in black and white model of hot air balloon

Annie Weirauch's hot air balloon design for HighBall.

Columbus Alive on 5 HighBall highlights (check out no. 3!).

Learn more about our Fashion Design program or apply here.